DC Seeks Curb To Youth Violence With Curfew Law

An argument over McDonald’s dipping sauce led to the stabbing death of a 16-year-old girl in Washington D.C. on August 27. Now, the Metropolitan Police are enforcing a curfew law to address the recent rise in violence in the nation’s capital. Another 16-year-old female is accused of the stabbing and was denied bond last week. She faces charges of felony second-degree murder and other charges in the case.

The juvenile curfew pilot program began being enforced by MPD on Friday. The program changes the way police handle minors who are accused of crimes and gives officers a way to dispense with children without being tied up on paperwork. Prior to the pilot program, police would take minors into custody and wait until an adult could be contacted to arrange to pick the child up. Now, police can drop minors off at a safe space and return to patrol, freeing up their time to address rising violence in seven neighborhoods.

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the program on August 31 as a way to address rising carjacking and robbery crimes being committed by minors.

“My father used to say ‘Nothing good happens in the streets after 11 o’clock,” Bowser said at the time of the roll-out.

The pilot program has been in the works as overburdened law enforcement seeks to address juvenile crimes. The program restricts anyone under the age of 17 from being in public spaces or in the streets after 11:00 p.m. and until 6:00 a.m.

The pilot program will not be universally in place in Washington D.C. but rather will target seven specific neighborhoods selected by police. Targeted law enforcement efforts have been shown to have a substantial impact on crime rates in places like Dallas, Texas, and other large cities that are seeing rising violent crimes. Curfew policies are less-reliable according to most statistics.

A similar policy was enforced last year in Maryland targeting minors who were committing carjackings and other crimes. One county saw 430 minors arrested between January and September 2022, 84 of whom were under the age of 15. Of those 84 minors, 34 had prior arrests for gun violence and violent crimes.

Some experts view the curfew laws as draconian and ineffective means of addressing crime, even stating that violence can increase as a result of these policies. They often point to the fact that curfew programs target the highest-crime areas, which also happen to be overwhelmingly non-White, poor neighborhoods. The result is more people of color being arrested while White minors living in affluent areas are not in danger of harassment by law enforcement.

Kristin Henning, the director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Georgetown University’s Law School, said in an interview with NPR on September 2 that funding mental health services and utilizing teams of “violence interrupters,” essentially adults who have a similar racial makeup and crime-riddled history who talk to minors on the streets are more effective strategies for curbing violence.

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